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MelissaH

Assembling a Propane Smoker

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OK, so we (actually my husband) today put together the propane-powered smoker we acquired last month just before we both got completely swamped with end-of-semester school matters. It's more or less a propane-fired version of a Weber Bullet. (Why propane? Because we don't do charcoal in any way, shape, or form, but we always have a couple of propane tanks around, so it made the most sense to us.) You fire up the burner as needed to keep the smoke going and the temperature where you want it, but you supposedly don't need to keep it lit at all times. (We'll see what happens here in windy Oswego.)

My wonderful husband had already dismantled the burner and taken the dremel tool to its inner workings to get rid of the burrs etc. that inhibit smooth gas flow and most efficient burning and then given it a fresh coat of high-temperature paint, the way he did for his homebrew burner. Today he actually put the smoker itself together, which turned out to be quite a job because the instructions that came with the beast were the instructions for a different model. I think I have most of it figured out, but I have some questions about specifics, since nobody I called was answering their phone today.

Parts of assembly were obvious (handles, grate supports, legs), even without proper instructions. But I'm not sure of other parts. For one thing, there's one piece that we don't know how to use: a flat disk of enameled metal (I think), about 7 inches in diameter, with a small (1/4 inch-ish) hole in the middle and a slightly raised lip all the way around the edge. After looking at the descriptions on the Web, I suspect this may be the "porcelain heat diffuser" but I don't know where to put it. To me, the hole in the middle implies that it's supposed to be threaded onto something, but I don't know what or where to be looking for. Any ideas, besides just putting it in the bottom?

For another thing, the smoker came with two bowls that are identical as far as I can tell. I'm guessing that one goes directly on the bottom (maybe sitting on the disk with the hole?) and holds the wood chunks to generate smoke. If it doesn't go on the bottom of the cooker (with or without the disk underneath), the door on the side won't be in the proper place to allow reloading if needed. The other bowl, I'm guessing, goes directly above the first bowl and directly beneath the lower rack, held up by the brackets that also support the lower rack, as a water bowl. Am I guessing correctly? The part that's really confusing me is that the Web site says the smoker comes with "porcelain coated water bowls [plural, emphasis mine], porcelain coated charcoal/wood chip bowl [singular, emphasis mine]" which to me implies at least three bowls in all. I'm wondering if the Web site mis-spoke, and we have the right number of bowls included.

I'll be making some more phone calls tomorrow, hoping that maybe the place I bought the thing from will be open. Our plan is to pick up the hunk of pig (a fresh ham, on the bone) tomorrow, so it can get brined on Sunday, and then smoked starting when I get up in the morning on Monday, to be ready for eating by halftime of the Fiesta Bowl about ten or twelve hours later. (Backup plan is the oven, in case we can't figure this out.) Or should I plan to be starting this earlier than that? I'm not necessarily looking for a heavy smoke flavor, and I'm most concerned with being sure that it's completely cooked.

I may also be able to post pictures of the beast (the smoker, not the fresh ham) tomorrow when it's light, if my descriptions don't make clear what I'm puzzling over.

Thanks,

MelissaH

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I had my husband, master putter-together of things that don't have good instructions, look at your e-mail, and his comment was "have her take some pictures and post them!"

Otherwise, for the ham, be sure and check out the topic on Behold My Butt. All about smoking fatty, bone in pork.

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Don't worry about any of the details, you've got all the major things covered. Ya need some fire, some smoke, and some way to control the temperature. Fill the upper bowl with either sand or water, set the lower bowl on the burner and pitch a fistful of wood chips in it to generate smoke, then spend the next 14 hours freezing your ass off adjusting the burner every hour. It doesn't take too many cold and wet smoking sessions before you buy yourself a remote thermometer so you only have to go out if something is wrong or the meat is done.

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Melkor, thanks for the vote of confidence. Snowangel, thanks for the link---I've actually been following for about a year, and it's what inspired me to start playing with smoke in the first place.

As for the pictures:

gallery_23869_2302_23324.jpg

Here's the bottom of the smoker. I didn't bother to post a picture of the outside of the beast, because it's easy to see in the zillions of other pictures on the Web. But note the flat bottom, designed to rest inside the burner's pot support ring. The "legs" actually fit just outside the burner's pot support, and between the legs and the flat bottom, it's quite stable. Note the loooong metal screws, which hold the legs on, and the clips closer to the top.

gallery_23869_2302_16703.jpg

This is how the bottom bowl fits in, as confirmed for me on the phone by the guy at the place I bought the beast from. Its rim rests on the screws, which have no other reason for being so long. The wood chunks go in here, and the side door allows mid-cook access if needed.

gallery_23869_2302_10593.jpg

Here's the top bowl. It sits on the little metal clips. Water or sand goes here; I'm planning to use water. I also have an electric kettle to boil water quickly, should I need to recharge.

gallery_23869_2302_22404.jpg

And finally, the rack goes on top of everything, sitting on a different part of the little metal clips so it's not touching the bowl.

One thing that's still a bit of a mystery is the heat diffuser. The guy on the other end of the phone was able to confirm for me that our disk-with-a-hole is definitely the heat diffuser. But he also said that the heat diffuser is a fairly recent addition to the box. He thought it might be something you use only when you want to grill rather than smoke, and that it wasn't needed for smoking. I'm leaning towards not using it at all, and hoping I don't burn a hole through anything. I am, though, planning to wrap the water pan in foil, to try and cut down on cleanup time later.

Later today, I'll be going to pick up the hunk o'pig. We'll also be getting something small to try on the smoker tonight or tomorrow (maybe some chicken thighs?), to see if we're totally off our rockers and if we should plan to use the oven instead. We'll also need to get a new propane tank, because this beast has an Acme regulator (the kind that needs threads on the outside of the propane tank valve) and neither of the two propane tanks we currently own have those. I've actually been hunting for an adapter, but nobody seems to make them. Our current tanks both have OPDs, but one has an old-style quick-connect, and the other just has threads inside the valve. We have no problem getting the tanks filled, but they don't work with newer devices built for a newer standard. :angry:

My plan is to brine overnight, probably in our downstairs "walk-in" (aka the back porch; it's now snowing!) and then start smoking (naked) early Monday morning. I don't mind sliced rather than pulled, if that's the way it turns out. (I can't stomach the thought of waking up any earlier than 6 or 6:30, which will give us about 10 hours before the Fiesta Bowl. My thermometer doesn't have a remote read, but I can put it where I'll be able to read it from inside.) I'm guessing I won't have a problem keeping the temperature in the smoker down, considering our weather.

I plan to bake up some anadama bread (or maybe anadama rolls), and also make a batch of =Mark's mustard sauce to go alongside, since that's gotten very good reviews. Veggies and dip, a bowl of guac and chips, and whatever else we think of in the way of munchies for during the early football games on Monday, and am I missing anything else? I leave the beverages up to my husband the beermaker.

Stay tuned for more details---and my ears and eyes are open for more advice!

MelissaH

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Melissa, yes to chicken thighs for a test run!

And, with 10 hours, your pork should be just fine! I usually figure about 8 hours for a whole, bone-in shoulder.

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Go get 'em Melissa. Another e-gullet smokehead is born. I have never seen a contraption like yours but it ought to work fine, the trick will being regulating the flame to stay at the right temp. 225 to 250 tops at the grate. Would it be possible that the diffuser fits on top of the bowl that holds the wood? The hole in the middle to let the smoke through? Just a 100% uninformed guess. In my charcoal smoker I use chunks of wood. I would think chips would work better here and the out best be smoked. I am very anxious to hear how this works for you. Susan is correct that chicken is a great test. Smoked chicken thighs are wonderful.

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I now have 10.3 pounds of bone-in, skin-on fresh ham in my fridge, along with 4.4 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. I also have the ingredients for a batch of =Mark's South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce, or at least everything except for the juice of the lime that he added but wasn't listed in the ingredients. :angry: (Any of you who have made this, did you add the lime? I wasn't planning to go out again, but I could certainly request that someone bring some along. They have their uses, after all! :raz: )

For the chicken, I was thinking I'd do a rub similar to what I use on a beer can chicken: mainly a base of Penzey's jerk for pork combined with a bit of salt and some brown sugar (and whatever else I feel like adding). The chicken is destined for tomorrow's dinner, since tonight's plan is gorgonzola pasta with arugula salad on the side.

But here's a crazy idea: would it be out of the question for me to put BOTH on the smoker tomorrow, assuming it all fits on the two grates? I have plenty of time to brine overnight tonight and get wood chunks (hickory) soaking now, and I'd only use one firing's worth of propane. The biggest issue: would the hunk o'pig be irreparably damaged by getting cooked ahead of time? That way there would be no worries about getting stuck in the dreaded temperature stall when everyone's starving and the Fiesta Bowl's long over. Is there a mystique about pig fresh out of a smoker (OK, fresh out of a smoker and well-rested) or is it like a stew where it gets better if it sits for a day? Is it appropriate to consider reheating any leftovers (planned or otherwise) in a crockpot? Educate me, please.

MelissaH

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Here is my 2 cents so take it what it's worth.

I cook chicken thigh's at 225ºf or so, and they take 4 hours. Start them skin side down and flip about halfway thru, and then sauce the last 30 minutes. The following image shows thighs and a whole chicken before saucing.

gallery_11593_2303_139363.jpg

I normally do pork butts so, I'll leave times to others.

Key rule in bbq is to allow plenty of enough time for the overall cook. Reheating is fine for pork and chicken, just remember to reheat slowly. I also like to allow about one hour after the pork is done, keeping it wrapped tightly in foil and placed in a thermos like cooler to let it rest before pulling.

Hope you enjoy your new cooker.

woodburner


Edited by woodburner (log)

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Key rule in bbq is to allow plenty of enough time for the overall cook. Reheating is fine for pork and chicken, just remember to reheat slowly. I also like to allow about one hour after the pork is done, keeping it wrapped tightly in foil and placed in a thermos like cooler to let it rest before pulling.

Yes, getting the pork done ahead of time is fine. Wrapped in heavy duty foil and held in a cooler that has been heated with a soaking of hot water a piece of pork that large should hold a safe temp for several hours. I never plan a meal time based on when I think the pork will be done. Either have it done ahead or make it an event were waiting does not matter as much, such as a summer cook out with lots of beer. When cooking chicken and any other meat it is best to have the chicken on the lower of the two grates. Any nasty chicken juices should drip into the pan, not the pork.

Unless you are serving the Notre Dame fans, than I would not worry.

Go Buckeyes

edited for spelling and stupidity


Edited by lancastermike (log)

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gallery_23869_2302_11072.pngWe're underway!

I mixed up a brine consisting of 1 cup of very coarse Korean sea salt (weight: 7 ounces), enough boiling water to dissolve whatever's going to dissolve, and then cold water out of my kitchen faucet to make a total volume of about 1 gallon. I did this in a round plastic container with a yellow plastic lid, made by Rubbermaid, that I got from the restaurant supply store; I use a couple of others to hold various types of flour, keep one empty for letting bread dough rise (it's got poolish downstairs in the nice warm family room at the moment; the book said 70 degrees F and the rest of my house is closer to 58 right now), and have a spare for times like this.

I donned a pair of disposable rubber gloves a la Alton Brown, took my chicken thighs out of their package, placed them in a "large" oven bag that I'd draped into a good-sized Rubbermaid container, and added about 6 cups of my cooled brine. I also sloshed about a half cup of brine on the counter, down the edge of the cabinets, onto the floor, and spotting my shirt. I twist-tied the top of the bag shut, put the lid on the Rubbermaid, and put the container in the walk-in. (This is the upstairs walk-in, the deck, as opposed to the downstairs walk-in, the patio where the smoker will reside tomorrow. It's 28 degrees F on top of the meteorology building at the moment, so I'm not concerned about things staying cold enough.)

Then I took off that pair of gloves and put on a fresh pair for the hunk o'pig. My initial thought was to use the container I'd mixed the brine in as secondary containment, so I transferred the remaining brine into a couple of 8-cup measuring cups with spouts. But when I tested the still-wrapped pig part to see if it would fit, it didn't: too wide for my container. My next thought was my 6-quart pot, which is plenty wide. Unfortunately, though, what it had in width, it lacked in height, and about the top third of the meat would have been above the top of the pot: not so good for secondary containment. So I finally just hauled the cooler upstairs, bagged the hunk o'pig in a turkey-size oven bag, put the bag in the cooler, poured the rest of the brine into the bag, pushed out the air, knotted the top shut, moved the cooler onto the walk-in, and then put the Rubbermaid of chix inside as well. We do have critters in the area, hence the need for robust secondary containment, but I don't think any of them have yet tried to open a cooler that's been left out. My butcher had tied the hunk o'pig into a nice neat round, and I think I'm going to leave it tied throughout the smoking process unless that's not a good idea, according to those of you who have done this before.

Next: fill a bucket with water, add some wood chunks, and set in the garage until morning. Can't just leave it out, because one of our cats is very much a water kitty, and I've cleaned up enough wet stuff today already. And I'm afraid that a bucket of water without much stuff dissolved in it will freeze overnight. Hence, into the garage it goes.

I plan to leave the meat outside chilling until tomorrow morning. Then I'll fire up the smoker and let it go without food for a little bit to be sure anything nasty inside is either burned off or coated in. My goal is to get the pig on the smoker just after listening to Will Shortz do the puzzler on Weekend Edition, about 8:50 AM. I'm thinking hunk o'pig goes on the top rack of the smoker, with the bird parts underneath, as lancastermike suggested. The only thing that concerns me with doing that is height: this smoker's top doesn't quite dome quite as much as a Bullet does. So a little testing is in order tonight, to be sure that's possible. (If my round food-service Rubbermaid won't fit, I know the hunk o'pig won't.)

I figure that if the meat is on the smoker by 9 AM, it will all be ready to come off the smoker by 7 or 8 PM, which means that I'll be in bed at a normal hour and on the day of the event, I'll only need to make up the sauce, cut veggies, finish the bread (poolish tonight, dough tomorrow, bake-off Monday), reheat the meat, and maybe do a batch of brownies or an apple pie or something like that. No worries about timing, and I'll actually get to see the football games too!

Further updates as needed.

Happy new year!

MelissaH

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I'm very glad I did this today, not tomorrow when I have a crowd of hungry people around.

I'm thankful for secondary containment.

I love the sanitizing powers of bleach.

Wireless home networks are good things.

I think the wrath of the heavens may be descending upon my head, in return for Nice Jewish Girl Daring to Cook Pig.

So, I woke up this morning at 5 AM, for no good reason other than the cat deciding that something was alive under the covers. Kicked the cat off, went back to sleep until 8 AM.

My husband was already downstairs, checking out this week's grocery sale flyers. I stumbled down and asked him about the best way to light the burner. He brought it into the family room, and I sat the base of the smoker onto the burner's pot support ring. Yes, sat onto and not into. Turns out that something didn't get welded straight, and it took a judicious application of dremel tool and hacksaw to get the smoker to sit inside the burner enough to be stable. (While he was doing that, I lined one of our bowls with heavy-duty Al foil, so I wasn't being totally useless.) Eventually we got that obstacle bypassed, and screwed the regulator hose into the burner.

We brought the burner and our spanking new full propane tank with the acme valve outside, added a bunch of wood chunks to the bottom bowl resting on the screws, put the lined bowl on the clips and dumped about 1.8 liters of boiling water (our electric kettle is Canadian, and measures in metric), added the rest of the apparatus, and went on a hunt for our long-handled lighter.

After finding the lighter, we got ready to light the burner. Nothing happened. Eventually it lit, but it was acting like there was too much air in the mix and the damper adjustments didn't seem to do anything. We eventually cut down on the airflow by using a couple of pieces of masking tape to cover the airholes, and the burner finally lit. By then, it was nearly 11 AM.

We kept the burner on for about an hour. Nothing happened, at least as far as smoke went, and the cover stayed cold. Eventually we got disgusted enough with the lack of smoke to pull the cover and middle ring off, remove the lower rack (cool enough to do with bare hands), take out the water pan (ditto), and dump the wood chunks out of the pan and directly onto the bottom of the smoker itself. Bingo! Within three minutes we had copious amounts of hickory smoke billowing out.

So at about 11:30, I went upstairs to get the meat out of its brine, to bring downstairs. I also readied a fresh kettle of boiling water. First step: put away the clean dishes and wash the others that were waiting in the sink. Everything fit on our supplementary drying board, far enough from the sink that there would be no risk of contamination by splashing. Then I went out to the upstairs walk-in to retrieve the meat. When I opened the cooler on the deck, I was confronted with a pool of pinkish brine: the pig bag had leaked. Only the bottom half or so of the meat was still underwater. Oh well, no time to do anything else, and the rest was still shrouded with plastic so it at least stayed moist.

I pulled the chicken out of its container and into a baking pan for transport downstairs. I then opened up the pig's bag, and removed that into our largest roasting pan, for transport downstairs. I brought both of those, along with the kettle and a probe thermometer down to the smoker. I dumped the water into the pan before the chicken went on the lower rack, the pig up above (thank heavens, the cover closed!) and the probe thermometer laid on the top rack next to the pig. After I closed everything back up, and waited to see what the thermometer would do. It topped out at (are you ready for this?) 86 degrees F. I think today, at least, I have a cold smoker.

Never mind. I took the two pans back upstairs and cleaned them. I was also ready to clean out the cooler, but I want to do that in the bathtub, and that was occupied at the time with my husband. So I just dumped the brine remnants into the sink, added enough clean water to come up higher than the brine spill, and a good tot of bleach to kill any nasties. That's still waiting for me to get back to it...but it can sit until my husband gets back home to watch the fire. Read on.

Then I got ready to combine yet more boiling water with cornmeal for my anadama bread. But when I grabbed the container, the lid popped off and half the cornmeal spilled onto my kitchen floor. Couldn't find the full-size broom, so had to use the whisk broom and its dustpan from the laundry room. Got most of it, but left just enough to act like ball bearings under my shoes. Didn't go on my butt before I grabbed a damp paper towel to wipe up the rest of it. Eventually combined cornmeal and boiling water; still waiting for it to cool enough that it won't kill my yeast when I add last night's poolish and the rest.

About the time I came back downstairs, my husband suggested that I kill the fire and let the wood continue to smoke on its own. I complied. He also announced that he was going into the office for the first time since before Christmas, to deal with the backlog of e-mails. I came upstairs to start writing this.

When I went downstairs to check, the temperature had fallen to 65 degrees and the smoke had quit, although there was plenty of wood. I fired the burner back up, and within five minutes the temp was back up, this time over 90. I've been running to check every two minutes or so, and as soon as I get this posted I'll be turning the laptop on. I think I'll either have to figure out some sort of insulating blanket, or just resign myself to continuous burner firing, to see if I can get the temperature up to even 200 degrees.

My thoughts: I probably don't have to worry about not getting enough smoke flavor into the meat because it got too cooked too fast. So I'll just keep babysitting the smoker with the burner on, at least until the propane runs out. (Last time I checked, the temperature on the rack next to the pig was up to a whopping big 105.) When the propane's gone, the meat will get transferred back into the roasting pan, although this time on a rack, covered with foil, and baked at low heat until it's good and dead, and then allowed to rest before getting pulled. As far as the chicken, I think I might see if I can convince the grill to ignite, and finish those off on the grill. I'll also be making a phone call first thing Tuesday morning, to see if the manufacturer has any suggestions or thoughts.

There's definitely a learning curve, but I'm not giving up!

MelissaH

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whew,

sounds like a lot of work so far, for just a little smoke.

I'm not familiar with your type of smoker, but the jist of it seems to me that you need to get the fire hot enough to achieve the boiling point of the water in the pan, that or a high simmer, soooo.. crank up the fire. The cold should not affect it all that much, but winds will surely do a bad things to an uninsulated cooker.

Your unit seems a bit like a Weber Smokey Mountain, with the exception of the fuel source, yours being gas not charcoal

Stick with it, let's get this figured out

After re-reading your initial post, I see the problem.

Here is my guess, regardless of what the manual says.

Crank the heat up until the water starts to boil and let it stay there for a few minutes, gradually lower the flame until the water will stay at a high simmer. You'll be good to go. I'll be surprised if your able to cook without the fire ignited continously.

woodburner


Edited by woodburner (log)

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I have somewhat better news to report.

At about 4:00 this afternoon, I finally got the temperature inside the smoker (as measured on my instant-read thermometer probe dangling just below the top rack) up to 200 degrees F! To get there, I basically had to keep the burner on, more or less at full blast. I tried notching the burner down a bit, to conserve fuel, but when I did turn it down, the temperature dropped precipitously.

The thing that seemed weird is that at no time did the top cover ever seem to heat up to the point where I couldn't comfortably hold my hand against it. In fact, even with the burner maxed out, it's downright cold! Today was on the warmer side: in fact, the temperature's been rising steadily through the day and evening and is now all the way up to 34 degrees. It was also remarkably wind-free, especially for Oswego: we had a little bit of gusting at about 5 PM (just as the sunlight was completely vanishing) but other than that, pretty much nothing.

Anyway, my anadama rolls baked, and are now cooling. I pulled the chicken thighs off the lower rack of the smoker. Just for hoots and giggles, I stuck my thermometer probe into one of the larger thighs. (Couldn't do it earlier than this because I needed it for the bread.) Temperature inside the thigh: 80 degrees F. This after being on the cooker for over six hours. The chicken is now on a rack in a roasting pan in my 375 degree oven, with the thermometer alarm set for 170. When it comes off, the oven temperature's getting turned down (that'll happen anyway as soon as I open the door) and the pig's going on the same rack in the same roasting pan, covered with foil, for the duration. I'm hoping it will trip the temperature alarm by midnight.

More disconcertingly, especially wrt woodburner's last post, when I removed the bird pieces, the water pan was still about as full as it was shortly after noon. This is telling me that although I'm generating smoke, and although my thermometer is reading a warm air temperature, I'm never transferring enough heat to actually boil the water in the pan. I'm not sure if an insulating jacket would help with this, especially at this time of the year, or if the whole concept of a propane-fired smoker is just a dud. I'm willing to give it another shot or two, especially if I can find an insulating jacket, but on Tuesday I'll be calling both the place I got the beast from as well as the manufacturer, to find out if there's something (key concept or actual physical piece of the puzzle) I'm missing.

Here's hoping I don't kill anyone tomorrow, regardless of allegiance! :wink:

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The water pan is mostly there to keep the temp down, if you're having trouble getting the smoker hot you could just leave it empty or remove it entirely.

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The water pan is mostly there to keep the temp down, if you're having trouble getting the smoker hot you could just leave it empty or remove it entirely.

I should still leave something there, like maybe the bowl emptied of its water, to catch the drips, right?

MelissaH

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The water pan is mostly there to keep the temp down, if you're having trouble getting the smoker hot you could just leave it empty or remove it entirely.

I should still leave something there, like maybe the bowl emptied of its water, to catch the drips, right?

MelissaH

Yeah, the empty (foil lined) bowl will make for a lot less mess to clean up.

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The water pan is mostly there to keep the temp down, if you're having trouble getting the smoker hot you could just leave it empty or remove it entirely.

I should still leave something there, like maybe the bowl emptied of its water, to catch the drips, right?

MelissaH

Yeah, the empty (foil lined) bowl will make for a lot less mess to clean up.

OK, then, I'm off downstairs to dump the water bowl and replace it.

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Couple of questions and sorry to hear about all of the problems.

What is the distance between the propane burner flame and the water pan?

Also do you happen to know the btu rating of your supplied propane burner?

I did read further up where you say charcoal is not an option, but really you will have none of the issues you bring up here with a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker.

Many people who have issues with charcoal, find using Real Lump Wood charcoal not offensive. The Weber unit is not all that much more money than what you spent originally.

Just some suggestions trying to help.

woodburner

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From the photo in the link you provided, it appears that the burner (flame) is external. It sits under the smoker. Within the smoker there is an air gap between the bottom of the smoker and the chip bowl and yet another air gap between the chip bowl and the water (drip) bowl. A poor design.

I'm afraid in 34 deg. weather you will have a hard time getting this smoker to heat up. Most propane smokers I've seen, have the burner inside the kettle situated just under the chip bowl, and shielded from wind.

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Couple of questions and sorry to hear about all of the problems.

What is the distance between the propane burner flame and the water pan?

About six inches, I think. Too hot to get in there and measure at the moment.

Also do you happen to know the btu rating of your supplied propane burner?

I did read further up where you say charcoal is not an option, but really you will have none of the issues you bring up here with a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker.

Many people who have issues with charcoal, find using Real Lump Wood charcoal not offensive.  The Weber unit is not all that much more money than what you spent originally.

The biggest issues for me are not that charcoal is offensive, but that it's yet another thing that needs to be kept on hand somewhere out of the way yet not so far out of the way that it's a pain to get at and use, and that it's horribly messy. I'd hoped to avoid the need to acquire a whole separate set of equipment to use for smoking, but rather to maintain some overlap, like the propane tank with its multiple uses, and also the 54,000 Btu burner (I assume that's its output per hour; I got that number off the Web site) that has other uses for us as well.

Just some suggestions trying to help.

woodburner

From what I've read, and from my little bit of experimenting on a friend's kettle this summer, I thought it would be easier!

MelissaH

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The chicken hit 170 degrees F, my thermometer beeped, and so I took the chicken out of the oven. (I never did get downstairs to remove the water pan: read on.) It cooked beautifully, and turned a nice brown, and I moved it to a different container so the pig could go into the big roaster.

But as I started removing the meat from the chicken bones, I realized that this is obviously not my day. Part of the bird might have hit 170, but pieces of chicken meat that had been near the skin or on the underside of the thigh were dry and leathery while other pieces closer to the bone were slimy and stuck tight, obviously not cooked through. So nobody's eating chicken tomorrow, because I don't want to kill off even any Notre Dame fans. :raz:

Back to the pig: I poured the schmaltz from the big roasting pan off, to dispose of later. Then I put the rack back into the roaster and took it down to the smoker. First, I turned off the burner so the rig could start to cool down so I could bring it inside for the night. I still had some smoke coming out, but had no trouble at all grabbing the hunk o'pig off the grill grate with my bare hands to plop it into the roaster. And I didn't even have to move the pig quickly, because it was barely warm to the touch. When the pig came inside, first thing I did was take the thermometer that had been in the smoker all this time, and insert the probe into the meat to get a gauge. The temperature reading said 176 degrees F, which certainly didn't sound right to me. My husband gave me a questioning look as well, so I washed the other thermometer probe, stuck that in, and got a reading of about 80, which sounded far more realistic to both of us. Into the oven the pig went, where it is right now. (It's been in I don't remember how long, maybe a bit more than an hour? and the temp inside is now up to 110.)

On a hunch, I took the thermometer and probe that had been outside, and fired up the kettle. When the water boiled, I stuck the probe in and got a reading of 212, about what I'd expect to see for boiling water in degrees Fahrenheit. But when I put some cold water and a couple of ice cubes in a cup, let it equilibrate for a while, and then took its temperature, I got a reading of 113. I don't know what temperature scale that is, but it's not one that means anything to me. Tomorrow when I have both thermometer bodies and probes available, I'll do some more experimenting to see whether we have a blown probe, a blown body, both, or just a bad combination. And although this thermometer seems to do OK at the 200ish range, I'm now questioning whether I actually got an accurate reading of the temperature inside the smoker all that time: was it really at 210 or 215 degrees? Or was it reading artificially high all those hours?

I'm frustrated!

At this point I'm just praying that the pig comes out of the oven in an edible state. The smoker rig should be cooled down enough to shovel out the wood chunks from the firebox and move back inside for the night by now, and I still have a cooler to scrub out. I think I'll do that first, so the hot water supply will be completely recovered by the time I'm done moving the smoker inside so I can get a long hot shower.

I'm also just hoping that I don't discover something disastrous about my rolls tomorrow. I can cook just fine most of the time, really!

MelissaH

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Continuing the saga:

For some reason I didn't sleep all that well last night. (Maybe because I was worried about the hunk of meat quietly incubating in the oven?) I went to sleep at about 11, woke up at about 2 and checked the temperature (174, if I remember correctly in my current besmoked mental state), went back to bed, and was awakened at about ten minutes to 5 by my thermometer alarm (which I'd set for 190). I turned the oven off, pulled the roasting pan out of the oven, pushed the foil down a bit tighter, and went back to bed for 45 minutes. Then I put a cutting board inside a cookie sheet (secondary containment again) and got out a big bowl, a couple of forks, and a pair of gloves.

At this time, I noticed that the faulty probe thermometer was reading 68 degrees. Which sounds like a normal room temperature, except that we keep our house pretty cool, especially during the middle of the night, and another more trustworthy thermometer said it was only about 60 in the kitchen. Something's still not right there.

I moved the meat onto the cutting board and peeled the skin off. It was nicely browned, but pretty soggy from spending all that time under cover. I also was able to pull off a bunch of fat from right under the skin. And I started pulling the meat into little pieces, mostly with my fingers. It pulled pretty easily, although one side was definitely a bit dry. (I'm wondering if that's due in part to the brining leak fiasco, although I'd be happy to blame some of it on my miserable oven also.) I definitely noticed that as the meat cooled, it got more difficult to shred.

By 7:30, I had all the meat off the bone and shredded, except for one edge that got really dried out and which I just cut away. It tastes pretty much like...ham. My husband said that it tasted like pork roast to him. There's definitely a smoky flavor, although it's not completely through the meat so I think it depends on what piece you happen to taste. The house still has a strong aroma of pig and smoke, but it's too cold out to open the windows and air. Also by 7:30, the roasting pan (into which I was tossing back all the inedibles) was cooled enough for the fat in the bottom to solidify. The bowl of meat got a covering of plastic wrap, and it's now sitting in the fridge until later when I'll reheat it.

I moved the solids into a garbage bag, and pulled out my little scraper (a gift from my fellow dishwasherless friend Anne) to help me remove the fat into the same bag. A piece of browned hardened goop on the bottom didn't like being scraped, and bit me on the knuckle. It drew blood. I scraped on anyway, and got most of the goop removed. I put a couple of squirts of dish soap in the bottom of the roaster, put the rack in upside-down, and added hot water to the grease mark so the whole thing could soak while I washed the forks, cutting board, and other stuff I'd made dirty this morning. After its soak, the goop in the bottom of the roaster scraped away easily and I didn't even destroy my scruffy cleaning the roaster properly.

Since then we've made a run to the grocery store for a couple of limes (and I'm sure my bitten knuckle will appreciate a squirt of lime juice right now :wacko: ) and a few other things to go with the pig. My rolls from yesterday didn't turn green or fuzzy overnight, which is a good sign; I'll crisp them in the oven this afternoon. We also got some Portuguese rolls (on sale this week) which can also be crisped, for anyone who would prefer a sandwich a little larger than 1/24 of a 9 by 13 pan. My husband has cottage cheese draining for a Belgian cheese dip, and I have cukes, peppers, carrots, and celery to cut up as dippers. (Radishes would be traditional, but they didn't look good at the store this morning.) We have little potatoes, which can be steamed and smashed to go with this dip also. We have chips and salsa, and guacamole-making materials. I still plan to make the mustard barbecue sauce, especially now that we have lime to add a la =Mark. And I have a bag of apples that can be turned into sauce, pie or other dessert...or nothing at all because I'm really tired and ready for a nap about now. Should dream about that one a little.

I'm thinking my next attempt will be on pork belly: homemade bacon, cold-smoked because that's what I seem to be able to do on this smoker in the winter. But not until after I make a phone call tomorrow.

MelissaH

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It may be that your faulty thermometer has got some water in it.

I had one like that, and it came back to life after being dried out

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Wow, what a saga, Melissa. It should not be that hard. The water in the pan is to moderate the temp. So cooking with it empty and foil lined may be the answer. I am sorry it turned out to be such a nightmare for you. With my Weber Smokey Mountain the cold is not an issue as long as it is not windy. With probes from digital thermometers I have found that washing them is an issue they should not be immersed. I wipe mine with a clorox wipe.

If this device is such a pain to use I would take it back. Charcoal is not so bad and aWSM would have done the job for you.

I do know that everytime I fire the smoker disaster is a possibility. I believe this is part of the allure of smoking

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